If solo practitioners could simply focus on being great lawyers, how easy would it be to hang your own shingle? But we can’t. In fact, we also have to be great business people in order to have a successful practice. If you’re like me and have no academic background in business this can seem daunting at best, and more likely impossible without a little guidance. For any business, law firm or otherwise, there are eight areas that require balanced focus, attention, and maintenance to ensure a healthy company. In this, the first of four installments on the topic, I’ll explain what those areas of practice management are and how you can tackle tasks in two of them with help from your handy dandy iPad loaded with the best apps to get the job done. The other three installments will each cover two more practice areas and apps to make them a snap.
Operations are first and foremost. This area is any activity associated with your craft. Here’s where the actual lawyering comes in, and where most solos (new or seasoned) feel comfortable excelling. The second area is finance, or anything that involves money. That’s the area where many solos feel the least comfortable. After all, we went to law school to avoid math into perpetuity, right? The third area is human resources, in other words, your team. HR can include any support staff that assist you, even those who are virtual. If you’re truly solo, you’re still an employee!
Information technology is next, and this happens to be an area of particular interest for me. This area is where you’ll be considering which technologies to use in your practice and how you’ll put them to the best use. Next, we’ll talk marketing, another tough area for solos, or how to get your name out and generate referrals. Quality assurance, or how you make sure your clients are satisfied with your service, is next. I’m sure you’d like current clients to become future clients. The last area to be discussed is professional development. Even with CLE requirements, you’ll still want to stay on top of the industry and your practice area.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s only seven areas of practice management when I promised you eight. The eighth area is compliance. This is where your taxes, licensing, and insurance come into play. I won’t be covering that part of running a business, both because there is a void of apps in that area and because it is rather boring. Just know it exists, and comply according to your state requirements.
So lets end installment one on a high note, in our happy place – operations. Legal research is part and parcel of what we do day in and day out. As time consuming as it can be and as conscientious as you are, we’ve all had those situations where we need to reference a case on the go. The Fastcase app allows you to do exactly that. FastCase is a companion app for a web-based legal research engine by the same name. It’s similar to Lexis and Westlaw, and is a service provided complimentary to bar members in many states. When you look up a case or statute using the web it automatically shows up in your saved cases or search history on the iPad, and vice versa. You can also email or print cases remotely. I use this app to facilitate productivity no matter where I am, which in the summer months could definitely include a beach.
Another great operations app is Evernote. This is another productivity facilitator. EverNote has countless uses, and again, is a companion app to a web-based service. With it you can create notes and notebooks to organize everything from client files and documents to logos and blog articles, even audio and video recordings. EverNote syncs between all your devices, including iPad, so you’ll always have what you need no matter where you’re working. It has email and print capabilities as well. I use this app when I am meeting clients at their offices (which I often do in my practice) rather than my own, or for meeting with colleagues to discuss professional associations and collaborative projects. All my files and information is in one, password-protected location.